the most popular tourist experiences in each state, according to viator
There’s nothing Americans love more than a good vacation. In 2018, we collectively logged 1.8 billion trips—for leisure alone. But between all the amber waves of grain and purple mountains majesty out there, whittling down the options can be daunting.
That's why we looked at a year's worth of booking data to determine which attractions, well, actually attract the most visitors—thanks to some help from Viator (a TripAdvisor company). And since Americans plan to spend around 10% of their annual income on vacations, we also determined the average cost of each state’s most popular experience to show where you can get the most bang for your tourist buck.
• Culture & Education experiences account for half of all top attractions costing less than $50
• Exploration & Discovery experiences account for half of all top attractions costing over $100
• Iowa is the most affordable state for tourism with an average attraction cost under $20
• Montana has the highest average attraction cost, tipping the scale at over $400
america the beautiful
From the Field of Dreams movie site in Iowa to a riverboat dinner and dance cruise in Arkansas, some of the most popular experiences may raise some eyebrows. Oklahoma and Kansas travelers seem to especially buck travel tradition with their devotion to indoor skydiving.
Though many of the must-see favorites do show up: Yellowstone, the Rockies, Mount Rushmore, Key West, and Martha’s Vineyard all make welcome appearances.
The majority of top experiences (31%) focus on exploration and discovery–ranging from a budget friendly dolphin cruise in Alabama to a bucket list Grand Canyon helicopter tour taking off from the Las Vegas Strip–followed by cultural and educational opportunities like Philadelphia's Founding Fathers Tour at 25%. Understandable given a country full of vast natural resources and rich history:
Exploration & Discovery
Culture & Education
Food & Drink
Adrenaline & Experience
But we didn’t stop there: we went beyond the top experience in each state, and mapped multiple top experiences for every state, by region. Keep reading to get an even better idea of what makes every part of the US so travel-friendly, as well as the average cost of the attractions in the region and state you're thinking of visiting.
Average Attraction Cost: $70.50
With its big cities and shiny metropolises, it’s no wonder the Northeast is a fruitful place to explore. You can pick up an NYC Explorer Pass, take a ferry out to Martha’s Vineyard, or tour Portland, Maine and its beautiful lighthouses. New Hampshire and Vermont are the two gastronomical destinations in the region—delivering on their farm-to-table reputations—and history buffs can get their fix visiting the Gilded Age mansions of Rhode Island or the Gettysburg Battlefield in Pennsylvania.
Average Attraction Cost: $47.99
The Midwest’s experiences are as varied as the region itself. The Great Lakes area seems to lend itself to good food and drink: the Traverse City, Michigan Wine Tour takes the top spot in Michigan, while Indiana’s top 3 and Ohio’s top 2 are all gastronomical. The most popular attractions in Wisconsin and Illinois invite you to explore their respective big cities, while Iowa proudly showcases its contribution to sports films and Missouri rides the popularity of Branson.
The Midwest is also the easiest region on the wallet, boasting both the lowest average attraction cost of any part of the country and the state with the cheapest average attraction cost of any state (Iowa).
Average Attraction Cost: $175.63
The West is absolutely covered in natural wonders, so it’s no surprise that exploration is the most popular things to do out that way. California almost fell in line, too, but the Muir Woods & Wine Country tour—their most popular experience—felt like it had more of a viticulture character than not, so we classified it as food & drink. Notably, the Bay Area is home to all three of California's most popular travel experiences.
Be prepared to budget a little more for vacations in the West, as this is the region with the highest average attraction cost. More specifically, fun in the Big Sky Country of Montana will mean big bucks, as it is the state with the overall highest average attraction price tag.
Average Attraction Cost: $66.28
Many of the Gulf Coast states tend toward watery activities: Alabama’s dolphin cruise out of Biloxi, a Gulf fishing charter in Mississippi, and Florida’s Key West dinner cruise. Further north, the history of the Carolinas is on display, while the popularity of Virginia’s Busch Gardens is the region’s only strictly amusement-based experience.
States and their most popular Attractions, In Order of average price